Books Are Essentially Free

Don’t let the price for a good book deter you.  The time it takes you costs significantly more.  And even after that, there’s likely a huge consumer surplus. Personally I can easily take 5-15 hours on one book.  If my time was worth $10 per hour, that would be a contribution of $50 - $150 of my time on that book.  A $10-$20 extra cost for the object itself is trivial in comparison.  If it’s worth the time, it’s definitely worth the cost. So how valuable is the book to me?  Unless I’m making a very wrong decision, it seems like it must at least be worth the time it takes me to finish it. One can compare this to the costs of private school.  Personally I didn’t get much from spoken lectures.  Few of them held my attention.  Instead I’d learn mostly from the books and my peers while doing the work.  Without the books, I would estimate that my college career would have been at least 1/3rd less valuable.  That could easily be worth over $80,000 based on my college tuition (for reference I did get financial aid, but the point is that someone paid for it, so to me it should have been worth that amount).  I’d estimate that I read around 14 books a semester at most, maybe 110 books total.  That comes out to about $720 per book.  Granted, many of these were textbooks, but it still seems obvious that there’s a huge consumer surplus here. But say that I expect a specific book to be worth $300, assuming it’s worthwhile to read.  Even if there’s a 10% chance I’ll read it, it’s still worth $30 to me. Maybe this brings up the issue of having a huge bookshelf of stuff that you’ve mostly never read. Many people seem to think that’s a bit dishonest, but that’s obviously missing the point in this case.  It’s just practical. That said it is possible that books aren’t worth the time, and that college education is over valued by over an order of magnitude.  That’s a much harder question, and if true, would change a lot more than your decision to purchase books or not.

Comments